Lord Mandelson has told the political opponents of Jeremy Corbyn they had better prepare for the “long haul”, as it would be wrong to force the new Labour leader out before the public have made their verdict on him clear.
The former Labour business secretary and adviser to Prime Minister Tony Blair conveyed his views in a private briefing paper seen by the Guardian. He wrote: “In choosing Corbyn instead of Ed Miliband, the general public now feel we are just putting two fingers up to them, exchanging one loser for an even worse one. We cannot be elected with Corbyn as leader.
“Nobody will replace him, though, until he demonstrates to the party his unelectability at the polls. In this sense, the public will decide Labour’s future and it would be wrong to try and force this issue from within before the public have moved to a clear verdict.”
If I was a Labour MP who wanted the leader out, I'd be in *despair* at *Peter Mandelson* co-ordinating the plot against him. I mean ?!
— Owen Jones (@OwenJones84) September 25, 2015
Mandelson makes it clear that he fears moderates within the Labour party will drift away under Corbyn, risking the party’s disintegration. But he says Corbyn supporters will not be easily dissuaded of their support for him.
“We need to acknowledge that those who supported him have invested a lot personally in Corbyn, we are not going to convince them overnight they were wrong and before then they will provide an army to draw on as they become absorbed into constituency parties.
“We are in for a long haul during which time the atmosphere in the party will become increasingly acrimonious at branch and constituency levels.”
He believes that many moderates are taking the view that they will return to the party when it “gets its act together and is serious again”. Those people must be given a chance to coalesce, he says. “Without this, the party in the country will slowly disintegrate as mainstream people withdraw from elected party and local council office. We have to give them hope that there is a way out of our predicament and that Labour does have a future.”
Mandelson was a key figure in the rebranding of the Labour party as ‘New Labour’ and the ripping up of Labour’s Clause 4, which committed the party to socialism in all but name. That manouvering split the party into two camps, the Blairites and Brownites respectively, the latter of which held fast to the party’s socialist routes.
Mandelson has urged his associates to now admit their past mistakes and shed the partisan infighting, saying: “The old labels, totems and divisions have no use anymore; they are damaging and counter-productive.
“‘New Labour’, Blairites, Brownites – all these labels are redundant. They prevent us reaching out in the party and building essential new bridges. If we want people to listen to us, we must no longer look as if we are continuing past fights.
“The last five years’ intellectual sterility has left Labour floundering before an electorate that wanted to vote against the Tories but did not feel they were being offered a workable alternative.”
But he then goes on to say that the bulk of those who swept Corbyn to power are Old Labourites, plus a contingent of people who voted Green at the last election. “This does not take away his success but it puts it into perspective and colours its legitimacy,” he concludes.
During the Labour leadership campaign Mandelson warned that a Corbyn victory would spell the “final chapter” for the party, and tried to get the three moderate candidates in the race to step down in order to force the party to suspend the election. He backed off when it emerged that, far from halting the election, Mr Corbyn would simply be declared the unopposed winner, but went on to try to persuade Yvette Cooper and Liz Kendal to step down to give the second placed candidate Andy Burnham a clear run.
Tony Blair also made two dramatic interventions, warning that the party faced “mortal danger” and “annihilation” under Corbyn’s leadership.